2/28/2012

Classroom communications and the computer

We're in the communications business. We need to get our lesson across to kids, let our administrators know how well we're doing in the classroom and help parents understand how to help their child succeed in academia. As in all other communication fields, there are 4 primary ways we get information across. Each of these is important and each can be improved by technology.



1) Electronic
This includes things like email and teacher webpages. Really, it should just be used to pass along information like homework assignments, powerpoints or weekly lesson plans.
This is NOT the place to try to inspire or motivate your students. While sites like Edmodo have some motivational items (badges, for instance), these sites are primarily for relaying content.

2) Phone
Telephones are mainly for short conversations and for the assurance that a teacher has actually made contact with an adult. While there's no way to know for sure if a note was read, the voice on the other end of the line lets you know the message was received. Most teachers keep a hand written log of their calls. There are sites, however that will provide verification that phone calls were indeed made when you said they were. My favorite is Google voice. Here, you can make calls for free strait from any computer. This is a one of a kind service in that it provides outside verification and it is searchable. You can quickly and easily bring up the number of calls you made to a student's home and the exact dates and times you did so. The fact that you can add notes allows you to keep track of what was said during each conversation.
3) Handwritten
This may be the most personal of all communications. As we move closer to electronic classrooms, this really needs to stay in place. Consider the fact that we'll put little notes in a scrapbook, but we forget about an email in two weeks time.
Right now, tablet devices like the iPad are the means by which people are adding handwriting to their electronic media. I use PDF Notes Free. It's an app that lets you bring up any PDF document on the iPad and write whatever you like. When you're done, just email the annotated PDF to whomever you like.

4) Live communication-
This is the one time people get those compliments, smiles, and handshakes they don't find elsewhere. This is also where relationship building really happens. We need to take advantage of the fact that people can see our facial expression, here our tone of voice and read our body language to get the full meaning of what we say to them. While nothing electronic can really take the place of face to face communication, there are some tools that can bring us closer when we can't meet in person.
Skype is probably the best known, but any online video chat will give you good results. These services allow you to see one another while you chat, adding a personal dimension to a tutoring session or parent conference.



Consider these methods of communication in your own professional work. I've mentioned a couple of useful tools here, but I'd love to hear what other online tools you come across to improve your own communication. If you think of something, please leave a comment.